03/27/12 — Former health director dies at 56

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Former health director dies at 56

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 27, 2012 1:46 PM

James Roosen

James Roosen, Wayne County health director for eight years who stepped down in November due to health reasons, died Monday.

He was 56.

He had been diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago and had surgery for a tumor in February 2010.

The married father of two is being remembered today as a strong advocate for public health. In his latter days with the Health Department, he often spoke out about the need for better access to birth control to reduce teen pregnancy and better reporting to public health agencies, especially among adult care homes.

Dr. David Taylor of Goldsboro Pediatrics called Roosen a "breath of fresh air" for Wayne County, recalling the years leading up to Roosen's hiring as being fraught with a steady stream of health directors that came and went.

"He came in and was just wonderful," Tayloe said. "He worked with everybody in the community. He was a player."

The county has done as well as it has because of collaboration among different agencies coming to the table, he added.

"(Roosen) was on the board of the WISH program. He and I talked a lot about teen pregnancy and things that are important to both of us," Tayloe said. "He understood the role of public health and he wasn't trying to generate an empire.

"We talked about issues. We were always on the same page -- there wasn't enough money to do the things we wanted to do. He never got down. He did the best he could with the money he had. I never saw him when the attitude was not very, very positive."

Tayloe said it was a "huge loss" when Roosen stepped down in November.

Sissy Lee-Elmore, executive director of WATCH, or Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, worked with Roosen on the WATCH board. His two-year term as board chairman ended in December.

"He was always one of the most active board members," she said. "As far as health directors go, he has been the best one for WATCH because he always cared about the uninsured. He was passionate about teen pregnancy prevention and STD prevention and treatment. We will sorely miss him in this county, and we wish his family the best."

News of his passing also sent shockwaves through the Health Department.

"He will be deeply missed," said Dr. Kim Larson, chairwoman of the Board of Health. "His contributions to the county's public health will be remembered for a long time."